Sri Lanka’s Rs. 250 million pledge to rebuild
historic landmarks in quake-devastated Nepal:
Quake-damaged Bungamati village - static4.demotix.com
“A classic medieval village –one of the prettiest in the Valley,” is
how the famous travellers’ guide, Lonely Planet, describes Bungamati, a
picturesque Newar village in Nepal’s Lalitpur District.
A village that overlooks the famous Bagmati River, Bungamati was once
an awe-inspiring sight, fabled for it historic and cultural
significance. Today, it is a heap of rubble, a site of devastation and
displacement that still awaits an opportunity to rebuild itself to its
Struck by the devastating earthquake of April 25, Bungamati was lucky
enough not to lose any lives but what was lost, according to
archaeologists and historians, may never be recovered. In losing 805 of
its original buildings and homes, much of its architectural history had
been lost forever. “It is our history that lies there today, buried and
broken,” said Kunda Dixit, Editor of Nepali Times.
Villagers, who have been volunteering their time to clear the site,
agree with Dixit’s words. They know that the quake had taken so much
away from them, including their gods and their dwellings. Five months
after the quake, they eagerly await reconstruction to commence as their
country struggles to approve a new constitution bringing with it,
violence and devastation, besides political instability to the former
“Around 80% of Bungamati’s beauty and identity were destroyed. It was
an architectural beauty, which had remained an important place of study
for students of arts and architecture. But the government’s focus is
elsewhere,” added Dixit, a well-known political analyst.
Amidst the heartbreaking rubble, one finds the 16 Century
Machhendranath temple, a tribute to Nepal’s great craftsmanship, now
reduced to a pile of bricks lying in mute pain. Five months after the
great quake, it is still difficult for the local people, who offer
genuine insight into the rituals associated with this historic site and
mourn the loss of their temple– to accept that their beautiful
Machchendranath temple, dedicated to the patron deity of the Katmandu
Valley, could suffer such destruction.
A glimpse into
History has it that during the fabled
Licchavi Kingdom, the area was called Bugayumi and later
renamed as Bungapattan, during the Malla Kingdom.
Machchendranath is the guardian deity of
the valley and his beautiful and large temple is the deity’s
home for six months of the year. The rest is spent in Patan.
The process of carrying the deity’s heavy image from one
temple to the other in a beautiful procession in what is
known as Rato Machchendranath (also known as Bungadeva), is
among the most spectacular annual festivals in the Katmandu
For the Hindus, Rato Machhendranath is the reincarnation of Lord
Shiva while for the Buddhists, he is the reincarnation of
Avalokiteshvara, the aspiring Buddha. “All in all, important to everyone
in the Valley, religiously and culturally,” said Anshula Karki, a young
student from the Katmandu University Centre for Arts and Design,
associated with a technical assessment of the devastated site. The
student group has been engaged in a variety of research – ranging from
research, documentation and infographics.
Following a call by the Nepal Government for assistance, Sri Lanka
has proposed to help reconstruct this temple of beauty, in keeping with
the reconstruction requirements of a declared UNESCO World Heritage
According to former chief of the National Archives of Nepal and
heritage conservationist, Bhim Prasad Nepal, it is important to
understand the historical and cultural value of the monuments when
reconstructing. “They should be restored in keeping with their
originality, authenticity and beauty,” he noted.
All seven sites declared by UNESCO as world heritage sites located in
the Katmandu Valley suffered significant damage in the April 25
They include the world famous Swayambhunath stupa, Changu Narayan
temple and the Durbar Squares of Patan, Basantapur and Bhaktapur. The
other two heritage sites –Boudhanath stupa and Pashupatinath temple have
been spared the ravages of the quake.
According to Bhesh Narayan Dahal who heads the Department of
Archeology in Nepal, the plan is to restore the sites within the next
five years. ‘It won’t be easy. These are not mere buildings but pieces
of history. Each brick that was lost cannot be replaced. Our loss cannot
be recovered, even when we rebuild them,” he said.
Department now employs a large number of engineers and architects to do
the preliminary work, in preparation of the work to start soon.
Meanwhile, several countries have come forward to help rebuild the
heritage sites as well as monuments and Sri Lanka was among the first to
In the immediate aftermath of the quake, the Sri Lankan Government
pledged Rs. 250 million to rebuild the Bungmati temple and the Rato
Macchindranath temple in Lalitpur as well as the Anandakuti Vihar in
Swayambhu area, according to Dahal. “That is a wonderful expression of
shared heritage,’ he said with appreciation.
According to his Department’s estimates, 750 historical, cultural and
religious monuments in 20 districts had been damaged by the April 25
earthquake as well as the aftershocks.
Among the 750 documented sites, 133 have been completely destroyed
while 617 have sustained partial damage. Nepali Rs.20.56 billion was the
first estimate for the reconstruction of the damaged monuments,
according to Nepal’s Post-Disaster Needs Assessment report prepared by
the National Planning Commission.
“We need to move on, we need to rebuild. What Sri Lanka offered is
special. We bound by a shared history, culture and religion,” Dahal
Pix by Bikash Karki